January 3, 2012

Winter Break

Winter break is one of the most awaited breaks in our household.  The other one is SUMMER, of course.  We either travel out of state or over seas to see other family members and re-bond.  This year we opted to stay and relax.  The children were on break for about 3 weeks, so I have to make it worthwhile and reminiscing.

I'm glad that I'm a stay at home mom so I get to spend a lot of time with my kiddos.  The first week was pretty hectic and busy.  Almost each day was all about the Christmas season.  We did paper ornament crafts, fulfilled our Christmas shopping and decorations, and formulated my paella menu for the Christmas eve.

The template I enlarged and printed out on a copy paper.  Next time I'll do this on a cardstock so it's sturdier and would stand my daughter's daily play.

My kids who helped me make decorate the house in a most beautiful way.  Everything was crafted with love and enthusiasm.
Tada! Our paper fairy angel is ready to adorn our table tops.
The paper fairy angels the kids enjoyed coloring and putting together while I was busy with another Christmas craft.  This idea is not mine.  I was just resourceful enough to find this online and have compiled everything in my DIY Christmas Ornaments article for easier reference.
The handcrafted paper tree out of my daughter's handprints, and my son's footprint.  It was very simple to do it but you will need a lot of green construction papers and a lot of scissor skills.  So consider yourself forewarned.  This was made specifically to decorate one wall of our playroom, which the kids frequent on a daily routine.  If you want to learn how to do this, check out My blog on this Paper Christmas Tree.
Another paper craft that graced every corner of our room.  Too bad the picture that I took is no where to be found. They might have deleted by chance.  So I have to use the original crafter's image for visualization purposes.  But these were a darling to make.  I don't have an x-acto blade so I made use of a paper cutter for scrapbooking.  It was a lot of measuring and cutting.  But once all paper materials were ready, it was very easy to put them together.  The hardest part was to let it stay hanged.  It becomes pretty heavy depending on the paper material you choose.  And some of the larger ones tend to droop too over time so you would have to re-shape/mold them from time to time.  So imagine if you have plenty of them across the room, it's a lot of work too.  So I ended up removing the deformed ones after Christmas, and left the others to welcome the 2012.  I got a lot of compliments on these though.  And it's a real keeper :)
For our noche buena (Christmas midnight feast), I tried to cook different meal each year.  We usually do it potluck even if the host would say otherwise.  So we ended up with a real big feast.  There was never a time that anyone in the family brought the same dish.  Thanks to good coordination between family members.  After, we divided leftovers among ourselves to bring home.  So the host won't end up with a lot of foods to stress about.

What I usually do is prepare Rubbermaid containers of the different sizes to accommodate each dish.  Below were just the dishes I prepared for our noche buena.  I didn't include what the rest of the family contributed.  It was in our place so I had to make it special, and prepare quite as much.  That was why we fully-decorated the house as well.  Normally we don't.  We just put up the standards: the tree, the wreath, the christmas stockings, the  manger, the garlands and the lights. 
My very tasty and yummy paella was so kid-friendly.  Shrimps were shelled & deveined, mussels were half-shelled too, and the crab meats were off its shell.  I left a few crabs in its shell for some adult-fun and decorations purposes.  I had a little dilemma cooking this though.  The rice didn't cook well.  It was still starchy by the time the timer ended.  I had to let it cook in an oven at low temp for about 20 minutes more.  I had to moisten it with chicken soup and covered with a foil to keep if from drying.  And I was just fortunate enough that it was ready and looked delish by dinner time.  It was a hit! Everyone loved it and will make again on the next holiday.
My first time to ever bake a ham and glaze it from scratch. My husband bought the ham at our local market, all cured and ready for cooking.  I used to remember my mom would do this from scratch.  I'd see her injecting all the curing ingredients in the pork.  So imagine all those curing ingredients (whatever it is made this pork truly delish). I glazed it with pineapple crush and its juice with brown sugar and a bit of raw honey which gave it a fantastic flavor.  You just have to be diligent enough to brush in the glaze every 15 minutes as it bakes.  That would make it juicier and tastier.  My husband helped me with this while I was getting LOCA over my paella.  So I thank husbands like him who helps a lot in the kitchen with GUSTO :)
Our finish product, all sliced up.  This is my children's newest favorite now.  We devoured this for the next 3 days after Christmas Eve.  Then, I had to store the rest before we get sick of eating it.  Reserved it for 2012.  I had to be creative though or else we'd be sick of this pork towards the last bite. I mixed it on fried rice with green peas & scrambled eggs.  It was so simple to make but gave a different yum on the rice.  I didn't even have to add so much oil for the rice to be flavorful. On some days, I made it with crescents, or sandwiches.  Whatever I did, my kids preferred eating this by itself on breakfasts and snacks.  They said it's just perfect the way it is.  So there you go!
And this was his price for helping out.  My family's heirloom, Fruit Salad :) I know that this had been duplicated so many times, but the taste differs on each kitchen.  He adores ours so much that he shows so much appreciation each time he gets a spoonful or two or perhaps more :)
After the Christmas feast came the gift exchanges.  That was the best part of Christmas  for my kids.  They'd been patrolling the tree since the day it was put up.  They kept checking their Christmas stockings for any presents from Santa.  We used to place red envelopes as stocking stuffers.  No toys.  Just anything light that the stockings could bear until Christmas Eve.  And we didn't fill it in till the day itself.  Everyone had to  strike-a-pose for pictures.  The more candid it was, the better.  We kept it for memories-sake.

The second week of the break is all about 2012 preparation.  It was nothing as festive as Christmas.  And the gifts that came were post-Christmas gifts that didn't make it on Christmas day.  We got them in the mail from out-of-state or oversea family members, relatives, godparents and friends.  And of course, we did the same each year.  It's been the tradition, so we keep it that way.

On this week, we did a bit of play dates with school friends to keep in touch and to revive friendships on breaks.  We also spent time on the park to play with new outdoor toys such as R/C helicopters, scooters and bicycles.  We played it with friends who got similar presents so we avoid jealousy.  We also played video games on our Wii consoles and DS Consoles to try out new games that were gifted to us.  My daughter and I had a blast playing with her complete collections of Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Rescue dolls, and her Melissa and Doug Abby and Emma Magnetic Dress-Up Dolls.  I felt like I went back in my childhood years. 

New year's eve came and the dinner was held on my sister-in-law's place.  We had a different meal.  It was Shabu-Shabu this time!  The easiest but the most loved meal ever.
The Shabu-Shabu ingredients and the famous table top butane stove. I know it's never safe to have a table top stove with kids around, but since they're well trained and accustomed to this table-setting, we didn't get any problems as to reminding them to keep away fingers and body parts away from the stove.  Everything went smoothly.
The Shabu-Shabu we made for the kids that was un-spicy and has full of vegie, meat, and  seafoods.  Noodles were cooked on the side so as not to make the soup starchy.
This was meant for US who so love the spicy-ness!  As you could see, it was red and really hot.  I was not keen into super spicy foods, but was blessed by this.  It burned my tongue and lips that it went numb after.  I had to bite on it just to reassure me I still have them on :)  Also, it gave me sniffles after.  But that was the fun of it.  It left me the feeling of bloatness and flatulence after the meal that I had to wash it down with oolong tea, which magically did the trick.  Loved the experience but never again will eat this much spicy.  The kids soup were better actually.  We brought home what was left behind and devoured it for lunch the next day.
And this was my contribution to our potluck.  My Chicken Macaroni Salad, courtesy of my cousin.  It's a family recipe also, and now sharing it with my husband's family to enjoy.  They are great cooks and it's difficult to compete to their standards.  And I'm in luck that every single dish that we brought in for the celebration was a big hit and I get requests every time.  This is happiness!!
And more gifts came of course.  I just have to wrap them up to add some mystery and surprise for the recipients.  Each gift was a joy to unveil as we watched the kids' unique and priceless facial reactions.  Some were overjoyed, while others were NR...meaning No Reactions, which tells us that they didn't like it that much but were trying to be nice.  But at least they got all their Christmas wishes, and were very grateful to GOD for all of our answered prayers.
The third week of the break was the first day of 2012.  So here's wishing everyone a Prosperous and Blessed 2012!! 

We went to the Universal Studios for some fun and adventure before they hit school by Monday, the 9th.  It was our 2nd visit since our first last September 2011.  We got a pass, but somehow we're lazy drivers to drive up to Hollywood and brave the traffic.  I honestly envy moms who can drive their kids back and forth everywhere and as far as San Diego from LA!

For the last week of the break, I have scheduled more play dates for the kids.  This was the quietest week for us. Time to finish up our 2011 photo book, and get my blog running once again.  Honestly, when I wasn't not blogging, I was busy with my Facebook page.  It's a private page.  It's intended for family members and friends across the globe.  

I also would like to let you know that Healthy Eats is running another challenge to fulfill. It will run for the whole month of January and is divided into 5 weeks.  Once again I look forward for another set of challenge that will grace my blog-site.  Check the link here.

Happy 2012 to all!!
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